Monday, 14 September 2015

Motherhood Isn't About Me, But...

So often during the day I write these beautiful posts in my head, with perfectly curated words and gorgeous turns of phrase (ha! Or so I think) but by the time I shuffle J into my husband’s arms and sit down in front of the computer, all my words have floated away. On a good day, I find stilted words instead.

In the months before I gave birth, I tried to prepare myself for motherhood. I told myself that it wouldn’t be about me anymore—that motherhood would be all about whatever my baby needed. I failed miserably in my preparation, of course. I’m still a selfish, normal human. But what I didn’t get until I held my babe in my arms—what I still don’t fully understand—is that while motherhood may not be about me, being baby J’s mama very much is. And that part is harder for this introverted gal than I ever would have expected.

It’s about me when he’s over tired and only my breast will do. It’s about me when he’s been away from me in his dad’s arms for a few hours and his whole face lights up when he sees me. It’s about me when there’s a stranger in the room and he’s not sure if he should be afraid. And it’s about me when he’s learning some new skill and he needs to know I think he’s really awesome.

I’m pretty sure that we all want to be loved. I love that he loves me—that I am so important to him. But I never thought it would be so exhausting, so draining. I never thought that being needed—that his need for me to simply be me—would demand so much growth in selflessness.

It’s this weird paradox, motherhood. It’s about me, but it’s all about him. It’s about him, but it’s all about me. I feel so little, but to him I’m the world. I beg for a break, but I’m incomplete when we’re apart. He brings out my worst and inspires my best. I want nothing more than to be his mom, yet sometimes I want to run away forever and be anything but.

The other day, I found myself intent on finishing the suck pads for our new Tula, ignoring him while he whined for a diaper change. It was all for him, but of course it was really all about me. Likewise when I tidy the nursery while he smiles hopefully at my turned back, or fold the baby laundry while ignoring him in my wrap. It’s so easy to martyr myself for myself, and so much harder to be present for him. But those grins, that unreserved love... I get a glimpse of heaven sometimes.

Sometimes as J’s mom, my heart breaks when I hand him toys  and things, and all he wants is his mama, and all his mama wants is to retreat into her books (so often books on parenting, no less!) and her toys (sewing and knitting and video games, oh my!) and her crappy reality TV (I’m rooting for Gabby on SYTYCD, and Derek on MasterChef, and the wrestlers on The Amazing Race Canada, and I don’t much like Vanessa but I think she should win BB17, and when does the next season of Survivor start, anyway?!). My heart breaks that J still manages to prefer people over objects, yet the person he wants most just wants to sink into oblivion.

But sometimes as J’s mom, I want to love myself a little harder and a little better, because he is a pretty neat kid and he loves me, and he wants me, and he thinks I am just fantastic, and I don’t ever want to make him think he’s wrong about that (and given that he’s a pretty neat kid, he just might be right). I want to love myself a little harder and a little better so I can give him the world, but also because he helps me to see myself a little more clearly—both what I am, and what I could be. And I want to treat myself a little more gently because being J’s mom is hard. Being anyone’s mom is hard. And I love him, and more often than not I do my very best for him, and maybe on days when I don’t (can’t?) do my very best it’s because I haven’t loved myself well enough anyway.

Can anyone relate?

Friday, 28 August 2015

I Knew You

What a few crazy weeks months it has been. A flare-up of already-under-medicated postpartum depression that has left me little more than comatose most days, the death of my grandfather, serious relationship problems with a family member, a teething baby, visiting in-laws, a diaper rash turned yeast infection... when it rains, it pours. I simply haven’t had the energy or inclination to write. But I’m trying to force myself back into some semblance of normality in hopes of tricking myself into a better frame of mind, so here I am. I was going to wrap up the story of how my husband and I met, but then the latest Planned Parenthood debacle happened, and I felt pulled in a different direction.

Before Baby J was born, I hadn’t had much experience with babies. I was the younger of two children. Most of my cousins were older than me; if younger, it wasn’t by much. My friends didn’t have baby siblings. I’d never even held a baby, and my interactions with them didn’t stretch much beyond making faces at the children of overwhelmed parents when they (the children, not the parents!) were fussy during Mass. So I read. And I prayed. And mostly I just wondered what in the world I would do when this little creature was on the outside of my belly and I knew nothing.

And then one cold day in January, after 28 hours of labour and another 30 minutes of pushing, the little creature whom I’d carried for 41 weeks and 5 days (but who’s counting?) was laid upon my chest. We stared at each other. Stared some more. Eyes locked. And my first thought was... you look like an alien (I think it was the giant eyes).

It didn’t take long for me to realise I knew more than I’d thought—not about changing diapers, which was easy enough to learn, but about this new little person (who wasn’t so new to me after all).

As he slowly s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d his way out of the swaddle time and time again, I recalled how he used to try to s-t-r-e-t-c-h his way into more space in my womb. When he cried uncontrollably and wouldn’t sleep one night soon after we were home from the hospital, I finally realised that his clothes were too short for him, and he just couldn’t tolerate it. From day one until today, he has almost always slept fully stretched out, arms above his head. And it came as no surprise, because I knew him before he was born.

I never had to (was never able to?) do kick counts, because whenever I would sit still a moment, he would enter into a flurry of uncountable movements. When I was in motion, however, he was generally still. He loved being worn (despite his general distaste for confinement) from the moment he was born—but he typically kicks up a fuss if I stop moving. And now that he’s getting a bit older, he adores being in his Jumperoo. He has loved motion since he was a bitty bean.

Aside from his propensity to bounce on my bladder at approximately all times, he was a pretty laid-back baby while still in utero. He dealt with a prolonged labour like a champ. I could drink caffeine without him losing his mind! He didn’t give me any major health scares. And he remains an easygoing infant, or at least as easygoing as an infant can be. He doesn’t cry all that often, and when he does, there’s almost always a discernible reason. He’s a great sleeper. He grins readily and enthusiastically. He goes with the flow. He always has!

The same baby who gave me horrible back labour thanks to his sunny-side-up presentation prefers being on his back to being on his belly. Tummy time has never been popular in this house!

And then there’s his heart. I heard it beating when he was still in my womb—that reassuring thump-thump-thump that told me there was a baby in there even before my belly had its discernible bump. That remarkably consistent thump-thump-thump that said “mama, I’m doing just fine!” I rest my hand against his chest, and that same little heart is still beating away. A miracle.

My baby had a personality long before he was born. He had a personality because he had personhood. He was a person. Is a person. Has a soul that will endure in perpetuity. And I am so blessed to know him.

Monday, 8 June 2015

How I Met My Husband (Part 2)

Did you miss Part 1? You can see it here!

I made it most of the way through Mass without being too distracted. We finished the Our Father, and it was time for the sign of peace. M and I hugged, as was custom among my group of friends, and I turned to greet those in my general area... only to discover that the gentleman I’d met earlier had chosen the pew behind me. I started to offer him my hand, only to have him offer his arms in a hug. I went with it—not something I would typically do! He was a charmer.

Mass ended, and M and I took our time leaving the cathedral. When we got outside, there once more was the same friendly stranger.

“Hey,” he said. “I’m visiting the city. What are the best places to see?”

“We’re actually visiting, too,” I said.

“Cool. We should explore it together.” And before I knew what had happened, I’d given him my cell phone number, and he’d texted me so I’d have his.

We parted ways, with me trying not to giggle like a schoolgirl. After all, I’d just graduated (granted, I intended to go back in the fall to do my philosophy BA equivalency, but that’s not the point)! Of course, despite how blatantly obvious he was (and he was!), I still had to check with M that he was interested in me and not her. He was.

In surreal triumph, we travelled back to the apartment in my friend’s rented Mustang, with my hair kept mostly in check by my mantilla in an oh-so-Audrey Hepburn style. We waltzed inside, and I’m pretty sure I did start giggling like a schoolgirl.

“So I think I just got picked up by a guy at Mass,” I announced. And the friendly interrogation began.

The next day, I spent far too long playing the part of the demure lady and awaiting a text from my mysterious prince charming. Eventually I got rather sick of that bosh, and sent him a message. After some back and forth, we agreed to meet for dinner at a local restaurant. It was time to start primping for what would be a rather... unorthodox date.

Let me pause my tale for a moment to tell you a few things about me that are relevant here. First of all, I did not know the city very well. Like, if you had dropped me in front of the cathedral such that it was staring me in the face, I probably could have pointed to it and said, “hey, there’s the cathedral”, and that’s about it. Second, I have a very poor sense of direction. Like, if you had dropped me in front of the cathedral such that I was pointing away from it, and told me that it was right behind me, I probably would have given you a blank look and asked, “hey, where’s the cathedral?” Third, I had been on very few dates in my life up to that point—in fact, I think I could count them on one hand. And fourth, I am by nature a very timid person and assume all other people are potential stalkers or serial killers until it has been thoroughly demonstrated that this is not so.

And that’s how I ended up dragging two of my friends along on my first date with my eventual husband. (Oh yes, I did.)

To be continued...

(If you are reading this, please spare me a Hail Mary or another prayer of your choosing. Thanks.)

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

{WIWS} Pentecost, and How I Met My Husband (Part 1)

Happy belated Pentecost 2015! Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday! Unfortunately I don't own anything red, so I couldn't carry out the wearing red tradition this year. Here is the rather unfashionable outfit I did settle on (babies make everything better!):

Skirt: Thrifted
Leggings & shoes (not shown): Ardene
Shirt: Reitmans
Baby wrap: Didymos On Roses

I desperately need to do some shopping since I'm currently operating on about a two-skirt rotation. I may just give in and do it online and hope things fit!

In honour of Pentecost, I thought I'd share part one of how my husband and I met (on Pentecost 2013). So without further ado...

How I Met My Husband (Part 1)

“Clearly God wants me to become a nun!”
It was a Saturday evening and I was visiting friends in the city. One friend was graduating, and there were several others I was getting back in touch with after way too much school-induced neglect. I’d just explained how hopelessly impossible it would be for me to ever find a suitable spouse. I was set to head back to my small university town, where all the good Catholic men (all two or so of them) were significantly younger than me and busy discerning the priesthood, or about 40 years older than me and already married. And I’d just rhymed off a pretty long list of qualifications that any prospective husband would have to possess—he’d need a sense of humour, a stable income (or at least a reasonable path towards getting one), a keen intellect, an affection for children, and the list went on. Of course, he would also have to be an orthodox Catholic and—just for kicks, since one of my friends was renting a sweet, sweet car for the weekend—he would definitely need to own a convertible. (Spoiler alert: God never met a challenge He couldn’t take on, and it seems He was highly motivated not to have me for a wife for Himself.) 
We stayed up late drinking that night, as the young and newly graduated are wont to do. Although my hostess (K) and another guest friend (M) managed to wake up in time to attend the morning Mass, I slept right through it, secure in the knowledge I could attend the 5:00 version that evening. Besides, after gazing longingly at the Cathedral on my last few visits to the city, I’d extracted a promise from K to finally get me to Mass at the prettiest building on the block—not her usual parish. I’d been once before, but only once, and the experience had been quite a treat. 
I was regretting my decision when K and M regaled me with tales of an awesome homily upon their return—but at least I’d had enough sleep to take it in! And by the time I was getting ready for Mass, I was pretty excited to finally revisit the inside of the Cathedral. I pulled on a comparatively fancy dress, and even did my makeup. I was riding high from my own recent graduation, combined with a wonderful weekend of friends and fun. 

What I Wore Sunday*, throwback edition: Pentecost 2013 (*mantilla may not have been exactly as shown, and photo was not actually taken on Pentecost--but you get the idea)
M offered to accompany me and I happily took her up on her offer. We made it to the cathedral and I grabbed for the handle of one of the main doors only to meet resistance. I pulled harder—nothing. I was sure Mass was at 5:00, and that was just about exactly what time it was! Next to us, a young man grabbed the handle of the other main door and encountered the same problem.
 He turned to me and said, “Hello, gorgeous lady. Please allow me to sweep you off your feet! You are the most beautiful specimen of humanity I have ever seen!”
And I replied, “Come here, you hunk of man, and I will smother you in chaste kisses!” 
Okay, not really. 
He turned to us and said, “Hey, how do you get into the church?” 
And M sensibly replied, “Let’s try the side door.”
Sure enough, the side door opened. I pulled on my mantilla, M and I found an empty pew, and we settled in for Mass (with my eyes as big as dinner plates as I tried simultaneously to pay attention to the Mass and to my beautiful surroundings). And I figured that the encounter with the nice young gentleman whose smile set my heart beating just a little faster would pass into history with no lasting significance. 
And then it was time for the sign of peace... 
To be continued.

Friday, 22 May 2015

{SQT} 7 Epic Blog Posts You May Have Missed

Blessed Feast of St. Rita, my patroness! (Of course she chose me; she is the saint of the impossible, and I am exactly that). Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes. This week: 7 epic blog posts you may have missed. Some are from the last week or two; others are much older. In no particular order…

{1} Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas recently wrote a beautiful reflection in response to the question “Have You Ever Felt Like Being a Mother Has Ruined You?”. This is a must read for all mamas out there.

{2} Way back before babies were even on my radar, Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter explained how Every Mom Can Nurse Her Baby! (even if every mom can't breastfeed). As someone who far too often spends feedings roaming the 'net instead of focusing on her baby, I'm inspired by this post to try a little harder to make eye contact (when babe is awake, anyway!). It's particularly potent given my disappointment in needing to supplement my breastfeeding with formula—a nice reminder that what is fed is ultimately less important than how it's fed.

{3} Natural Mama Nell at Whole Parenting Family has clearly been spying on me in order to use me as an example of what not to do, and has come up with 7 kindnesses to show your spouse while raising small kids. Such wisdom in this post!

{4} Singer-songwriter Audrey Assad at Blessed is She wrote about her husband's cancer, courage, and God's will in Facing that Cross. There is a tonne of honesty and vulnerability in this reflection.

{5} Rosie at A Blog for My Mom has shared I'm Not Afraid of My Fertility (Anymore). A wonderful reminder not to let fear dictate decisions!

{6} Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum composed My New Children's Book! in which she gives us a preview of what is sure to be the next best seller (I'd buy it!). 

{7} PinkHairedPapist (totally her real name) at Pink-Haired Papist wrote a Very Serious account of The Day the New York Times Saved Me from Evil, Evil Catholicism. Don’t let this one pass you by!

What were your favourite reads (new or old) this week?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Postpartum Depression Is...

Long time, no post. A pain flare and a postpartum depression flare have been kicking my butt... which prompted me to post the following. Postpartum depression is going to look a little different for every woman. This was (is) my experience.

Postpartum depression is…

Fatfatfatfatfat. Oh no. I thought I kicked the eating disorder a few years ago. I have to keep eating. I have to feed the baby.

Crying. Crying again. Me, not the baby. Why am I crying again? I'm fine.


Lie awake until three in the morning while babe sleeps peacefully. Not even Nyquil does the trick. Give up. Get up. Clean the house because the house is disgusting I can't stand this the house is disgusting oh God the house is disgusting why did I never clean the baseboards? Clean the baseboards. Pass out at nine the next morning, courtesy of a melatonin-Gravol-exhaustion combination. Wash, rinse, repeat a few days later.

Crying. Crying again. The baby, this time. Me staring blankly while I hold him in my arms. I love the baby. Why is he crying? Oh God, make him stop crying. Please make him stop crying. Husband takes baby and changes diaper. Baby stops crying. Why couldn't I do that?

I want to run away and never come back. Except… I love the baby. How do I run away from everything yet take the baby with me? I'm not allowed to run away, anyway. And where would I go?

I'm lying on the bed wailing. It's been hours, I think. An hour at least. I don't know how long. I can't talk. I have no words. Words take energy. I have no words. My husband lying next to me, only holding back tears because his crying would make mine worse. Could mine be worse? He falls asleep—exhaustion. I make it three steps towards the door before I collapse on the floor and wail some more. Snot on the floor because I have no energy to lift a tissue. I hope that comes out of the carpet. Disgusting.

Wake the baby to change his diaper, because he needed to be changed an hour ago. Failure. No words, still.

Go away, God. God, where are you? Why won't you fix it? Go away, God.

"You need to eat."
"I'm not hungry."
"I made this for you."
"I can't."
Fatfatfatfatfat. More tears. Mine. His.

The baby is crying again. Please God, make him stop. I love the baby. I love the baby, so why can't I just get up and change his diaper? Husband takes the baby and changes his diaper. I love the baby… right?

At the doctor. "My mood is down, but I want to wait it out a little longer." I don't want to wait it out. Why did I just say that? I don't want to wait it out.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." I'm sure I don't want to wait it out. Why did I just say that? I'm sure I'm an idiot.

Seething rage. My husband is making dinner. Why isn't he watching the baby? He offered to watch the baby so I could make dinner. Why can't we just skip dinner? Why isn't he watching the baby? How dare he not watch the baby and give me a break?

Through tears, to my husband. "I'm fine." I'm not fine."You don't seem fine."
"I'm fine! Leave me alone!" I'm not fine. Why do I keep saying I'm fine? Why can’t I just say I'm not fine? I'm not fine!
"You don't seem fine."
"I would be if I didn't just spend time cleaning disgusting bathrooms! I hate this! I hate everything!" I hate you? I'm almost yelling. I'm not fine.
I'm in tears, and "I'm sorry. That wasn't okay. I'm sorry." I love you. Please forgive me. Oh God, what if he doesn't forgive me? "I'm not fine. I'll go back to the doctor. I'll get a referral to the psychiatrist. I'll go to the psychologist. I'm sorry." Finally, I said it. Why was that so hard? He forgives me in the time it takes me to apologise.

On the floor again. The kitchen, this time. The bowl of soup still untouched at my place. I'm wailing. An animal sound. I don't recognise the sound of my own despair. My husband lying next to me. My son in his swing. I'm wailing. Get up. Go do it. Your child needs you to.

The baby is crying again. I stare at him, blankly. My husband rescues me. Rescues him.

I stand. I walk upstairs. I pick up the box of Gravol. Maybe it's enough. I hope it's enough. I don't have the energy. Do it. Your son is better off without you. You owe him this. My husband catches up to me.
"What are you doing?"
"Leave me alone." Don't leave me alone.
"I can't do that." He's almost in tears. Again. Or maybe he is. Mine blur my vision too much to tell.
"Please. Just for five minutes." Leave me alone. Do it. Please.
"Why? Will you be safe?"
"He's better off without me."

Medication in a locked box. My husband in a sleeping bag in front of the bedroom door.

"He's not better off without you."
Yesheis. Yesheis. Yesheis. I failed him. I always fail him.
"Yes he is. You both are."

Ripping open skin with a pair of nail scissors, because they're the only thing I can find. Husband's razors hidden away.  Must hurry, so he doesn't realise I'm not just peeing. Just one more jagged tear. Why did I ever bother fighting the urge? Long sleeves forever now.

Visit from a friend, arranged by a worried husband. She prays I get my Simon of Cyrene. Maybe I will. Maybe I have. When's the last time I showered, anyway?

Fighting over meals. Again. Failed promised submission. Might as well submit. I can just cut away the lost piece of myself.

I'm home alone for ten minutes because I promised not to kill myself before talking to a priest. I didn't promise not to hurt myself. The baby's not crying, but he will be soon. A mad dash through the house trying to find something better than the nail scissors. No success. The nail scissors will have to do. Another jagged slice.

The psychiatrist has a cancellation tomorrow. Can I make it? I can make it.

"This was a stupid idea. What if she commits me?"
"It'll be okay."
"I can't deal with this." I'm jumping-out-of-my-skin anxious. What if she commits me? I can't deal with this.

In to see the psychiatrist lickety split, comparatively. Two weeks wait time, give or take, plus fifteen minutes of eternity. Back on drugs. At least I wasn't committed.

Home visit from a priest. "Will you hear my confession?" Guess that means cutting is back off the table. I should probably eat, too. Anointing of the sick. I suppose I qualify.

The sun seems a little brighter. The snow is melting.

Keep seeing the psychologist—"Pills aren't skills." Get out for a walk. Get up when I want to curl up.

I think I remember how to smile. Maybe the baby is better off with me.

The baby cries. I love the baby. I love the baby!  I change his diaper.

Friday, 8 May 2015

{SQT} My 3-Month-Old's 7 Favourite Solids

Despite my repeated insistence that he will not start on solid foods until at least 4 months, and probably 6, my 3-month-old keeps trying to eat the world. So for my first Seven Quick Takes, I thought I'd list, in no particular order, my babe's 7 favourite solids:

1. Spit-up-covered receiving blankets. I guess they taste kind of like food? He loves to grab these and stuff them in his mouth when I'm trying to burp him, making my task that much more difficult.

2. His outfits. Also typically covered in spit-up and apparently delicious.

3. My hair (which, let's face it, is probably also coated in spit-up). He grabs a big ol' handful and just stuffs it in his mouth. Well, Spikybean, I lose handfuls every time I even look at a brush, so why don't I just give you some of that and you can stop hastening the balding process?

4. His knuckles. He's not much for thumb sucking, but his knuckles are JUST THE BEST. Mmm, delicious.

Here's an unrelated picture of our groundhog friend, because I'm sure babe would love to stuff it in his mouth, too, if only it would fit.

5. His O-Ball rattle. Too bad he can't actually fit it into his mouth. And then he gets really, really mad that he can't fit the whole thing into his mouth and mama has to take it away.

6. His parents' fingers. Preferably several from each parent, at the same time. At which point he gets really, really mad that he can't fit them all into his mouth and mama has to take them away.

7. His double-ended rattle. Sometimes he can fit this in his mouth, if he grabs it just the right way. The rest of the time he gets really, really mad. Or just resorts to kind of licking at it while only getting a bit mad.

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes because—let's face it—a link party is the only party this mama will be attending for a really, really long time.